Pedestrianisation of Alnwick street poised to move a step closer

The controversial pedestrianisation of an Alnwick street is poised to move a step closer.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 8:15 am
Narrowgate in Alnwick.
Narrowgate in Alnwick.

Alnwick councillors are being recommended to approve the permanent pedestrianisation of Narrowgate.

A traffic-free trial of the street has split opinion since it was introduced in July 2019.

However, the most recent public consultation carried out last autumn found 62% of 527 respondents were in favour of the move with 38% against.

Cllr Gordon Castle.

A report has now been drawn up by Northumberland County Council which is being considered by Alnwick Town Council tonight (Thursday).

Along with the permanent pedestrianisation of Narrowgate, it recommends an improvement scheme for the turning area in Bondgate Within and at the Fenkle Street/Market Street junction.

If approved, further consultation would be carried out on the design and appearance of the ‘streetscape’ of the pedestrianised area.

Cllr Gordon Castle, local ward member on Northumberland County Council, said: “I approve the content of this long awaited report and support its recommendations.

"I'm hopeful that Alnwick Town Council takes a unanimous view, but I do recognise that Northumberland County Council has to identify funds to pay for high quality streetworks if the decision to go ahead and confirm the permanence of the scheme is taken.

"A large number of respondents in favour of the scheme made this important point.”

Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “Narrowgate, it does feel that it was already somewhat of a forgone conclusion that the pedestrianisation would be made a permanent feature, indeed the cycle racks buried into the Tarmac months prior to the consultancy at the front of it looked pretty permanent!

"It's good to see the report acknowledges the damage done to the businesses outside of the pedestrianised zone as a result and I would encourage the county council to work with those businesses individually to support them.

"I would like to see the area now furnished correctly and the businesses within it utilise it to its full potential throughout seven days of the week and indeed extended into the evening time economy, They have a real opportunity to thrive down there now.”

The trial was meant to be a 12-month experiment but the ongoing Covid pandemic led to it being extended.

Traffic count data showed that, comparing the weeks immediately before and after the closure was introduced, the average daily traffic increased by 149% on Fenkle Street and 20% on Market Street.

A survey carried out in October 2019 found that 55% preferred the original layout in Narrowgate.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of businesses in Narrowgate stated that trading had increased, while 60% of those in Bondgate Within said trading had decreased.

Following the lifting of Covid restrictions, the Alnwick Forum agreed to a final consultation. It found that 329 (62%) were in favour of permanent pedestrianisation with 198 (38%) against.

Of these, 64% with an address in Alnwick were in favour, 83% on Narrowgate approved and 78% on Bondgate Within were against.

The council report to members concludes: ‘The trial closure of Narrowgate has shown that a pedestrianisation scheme is feasible and that the effect on the wider town centre road network is generally acceptable.

‘The two main issues on the road network are the Bondgate Within turning area and the Fenkle Street/Market Street junction. It is recommended that both are addressed as part of the project.

‘The effect of the closure has been positive for those traders within Narrowgate.

Traders in Bondgate Within are generally against the closure, however, access to their premises is almost unchanged, with vehicles still able to park nearby.

‘The proposed pedestrianisation fits well with the role of Alnwick as a visitor attraction, adding to the existing offer and providing a link between the Castle and the Gardens.

‘The scheme also promotes walking, removes unnecessary through traffic and significantly improves the environment within the area closed to vehicles.’

A final decision on the proposal will be taken by the county council.

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